Exploring ancestor magick

EXPLORING ANCESTOR MAGICK

writer: Rachel Perez Wallerstedt 

 Lucy, a more distant ancestor.

Lucy, a more distant ancestor.

Ancestral magick is what witches do when they want to commune with the people of the past. Why do we incorporate our ancestors into some rituals?

  1. To learn from the wisdom of our ancestral traditions.

  2. To offer our ancestors a voice in this life.

  3. To heal familial wounds.

Learning from our ancestral traditions 

People have been chanting intensely around symbolic flowers and rocks since the dawn of humanity, but delving into the particular chants, flowers, and rocks that our particular ancestors may have felt spiritually inspired to use can feel exhilarating. Learning the traditional magick of one’s ethnic roots is a good way to get into the headspace of great-great-grandma, and that sympathy strengthens the threads of communication between us and the elders of our bloodline.

The absolute best reference on familial spiritual traditions is going to be actual family, so those of us who have a good relationship with our living ancestors can ask for their stories. People within the broader community will also be a good source of information on common traditions within our given human gaggle. Research at the library comes next... trust me, you will make friends with a librarian for life if you ask them to help you research this stuff.

Then of course, there’s researching culturally-based spiritual practices on the internet. Always Remember: the internet is a powerful source of information and also an odorous den of hellish lies. We must not be afraid to double or triple check sources on stuff about ethnic magickal traditions that we stumble across online. We must also learn not to follow only one digital voice, but many voices that can teach us about our shared history. 

Some of us may not have access to the specific beliefs and traditions that our recent ancestors practiced. While strict ancestral prescriptivists might howl, the fact is, all humans are ultimately connected to one another through DNA, and people in the past may need to reach out to folks who they aren’t blood related to, anyway. If a cultural practice inspires our soul or our spirit, I feel that it’s okay to incorporate it into our private practice even if we didn’t necessarily grow up in the same family tree as the idea did.

 Ancestor altars are a way of honoring our loved ones. Some view the spaces as places of rememberance. Others view ancestral altars as a way to speak with ancestors directly and offer them the comforts of the living, such as food.

Ancestor altars are a way of honoring our loved ones. Some view the spaces as places of rememberance. Others view ancestral altars as a way to speak with ancestors directly and offer them the comforts of the living, such as food.

Offering our ancestors a voice 

Our ancestors often have messages they need to communicate to the present. We are not compelled to do anything with the messages if they don’t resonate with us. However, we may find that whatever it is our ancestors would like to communicate is a message that holds deep significance to us as well. Ancestors speak loudly when circumstances are dire, because they want us to learn from their own life experiences, avoid misfortune, and continue the dance of life.

When we commune with our ancestors through ritual, we can allow them to speak through us. We hear their message and incorporate it into our practice. Perhaps it is a mantra to repeat or a mysterious song, or maybe what they have to say is more prosaic. As we act as their conduit, we allow our ancestors to reach into the world of the now and aid their living brethren. We may not have all the answers we need to solve our problems on our own; the wisdom of elders looking on us from the past is a perspective that is valuable and informative.

Healing familial wounds  

Families are like a tapestry, and each individual experience of each family member are single threads running through it. We are woven together. Things like trauma and abuse can rip threads out or tangle them into knots. The familial threads that hold our souls together must be mended in order for us to feel whole. Ancestral magick can help us mend the familial tapestry and weave different, more fulfilling stories.

Some of us may need to heal our ancestors through fighting for their values, and some of us may need to guide our ancestors toward redemption. If our recent ancestors are a source of pain, communing with them may feel more cathartic than magickal, but it is in fact a step on the way to freeing our souls from trauma and abuse.

 Some Chinese ancestral practices include offering spirit money to relatives.

Some Chinese ancestral practices include offering spirit money to relatives.

Final thoughts on ancestor magick 

Ancestral magick feels powerful to many people. Family is our first experience of life, family gives us our first and clearest blueprint for society, family swims through our veins. If this type of magick leads you to a place of growth, it will yield rich returns.

However, let us keep in mind that ancestors, and I hope you can excuse my tact, are just dead regular people. Our ancestors were just as human as we are now, and while they have a crazy-different perspective than most people we’ll meet day-to-day, they are still just regular people. They may be wrong about things, their messages may be nonsense, and they may ask us to do petty things. We can use their wisdom while forging our own path.